As a segment of the Legislative Forum, the Minnesota Council on Disability (MCD) hosted a discussion around COVID-19’s impact on Minnesota’s disability community. Panelists included the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm and the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. The conversation was moderated by MCD’s Kody Olson, who serves as the disability advisor to the State Emergency Operations Center.
At the heart of the robust conversation was the disproportionate impact that the pandemic has had on the disability community, particularly those with pre-existing health conditions and folks who live in congregate care settings, such as group homes. To support the disability community in navigating this crisis, both Commissioners are relying on their past experiences in service of the disability community. Commissioner Harpstead led Lutheran Social Services and Commissioner Malcolm led Courage Kenny. The Commissioners are also relying on state government public servants and disability community advocates. Commissioner Harpstead noted that “the disability community has been at the top of my mind throughout COVID-19” and added that DHS has issued over 100 waivers of rules and regulations to meet the community’s needs and provide flexibility for providers and families, PCAs, and others.
Commissioner Malcolm discussed the COVID-19 vaccine and how the disability community had been included in the framework for an equitable allocation. The Commissioner added that those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as physical disabilities, should be explicitly included in the priority list, as well as those who live in congregate settings and use care providers like PCA’s. Commissioner Malcolm mentioned that Minnesota’s Vaccine Allocation Advisory Committee provides input on the allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine and added that the disability community has a representative on that group, who has assisted in adding specificity to the guidance.
The State of Minnesota continues its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the Minnesota Council on Disability is supporting. To get in touch with MCD on this topic, contact Kody Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Disability Hub MN is supporting individuals throughout the pandemic by answering questions and helping people navigate resources. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has information and resources for the disability community posted on its website. Join the MDH Disability Unit’s “Let’s Talk” forum discussing vaccines on January 12 at 11:00 am.